A Texas teenager escaped a jail sentence Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas when he was sentenced to 10 years probation after confessing to intoxication manslaughter in the deaths of 4 people back on June 15. The 16-year-old's defense attorneys successfully used a psychologist to argue the teen suffered from "affluenza". That's described as a syndrome that keeps someone from a wealthy background from learning that bad behavior has consequences, according to the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 12.
While that explanation helped the North Texas teenager get his sentence of probation after he drove drunk and killed four pedestrians, it has outraged others who say it points yet again to the privileged getting away with murder.
According to officials, earlier on the night of June 15, Ethan Couch was spotted on Walmart store surveillance video stealing two cases of beer along with some friends.
He had seven passengers in his Ford F-350 pickup truck and was speeding while driving drunk when he struck four pedestrians on a rural road in Burleson.
The four killed were Brian Jennings, 43, Breanna Mitchell, 24, Shelby Boyles, 21, and her 52-year-old mother Hollie Boyles. Three hours after the crash, tests showed Couch had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, which is three times the legal limit.
Prosecutors sought the maximum 20 years in state custody for the teen, but his attorneys successfully argued to state District Judge Jean Boyd that Couch needed rehabilitation rather than prison.
According to CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, it is very rare for prosecutors to challenge a sentence on the grounds that it was too lenient.
"To give him a pass this time given the egregious nature of his conduct - four deaths - is just incomprehensible", Hostin said.
Two people riding in the bed of the pickup were thrown in the crash and severely injured. One is no longer able to move or talk due to a brain injury. The other suffered broken bones and internal injuries.
The sentence outraged the prosecutor in the case as well as the families of the victims, who said the Couch family's wealth had afforded him better treatment by the legal system.
"Money always seems to keep you out of trouble", said Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident. "Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If you had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different".
In using the so-called affluenza defense, the psychologist cited a previous instance when Couch, then 15, was caught in a parked pickup with a naked 14-year-old girl who was passed out.
He was never punished in that case. And the psychologist also noted to the court that the teen was allowed to drink at a very young age, and even began driving at 13.
If affluenza is a condition in which a child who's the product of wealthy and privileged parents, never learns that their actions come with bad consequences, then what does this sentence do to change that?
What do you think?